The La Grande Juniors All Stars’ road to a West Regional Championship just got a lot more difficult.
Golden Hill, based out of Southern California, used three pitchers in a combined no-hitter to shut down La Grande, 6-0, in the semifinals Thursday afternoon in San Jose, California.
“We just didn’t hit the ball,” La Grande head coach Doug Schow said. “We have to do a better job at the plate. Too many backward Ks, too many kids swinging at first-pitch curveballs.”
The win sent Golden Hill to Saturday’s championship and dropped La Grande into a 4:30 p.m. elimination game today against either Pearl City, Hawaii, or Livermore, Northern California. Those two squads play at 1:30 p.m. today. If La Grande wins that contest, it would have to defeat Golden Hill twice — at 10 a.m. and again at 1 p.m. — in Saturday’s finale to advance to the Junior World Series.
La Grande had no answers to Thursday’s pitching trio of Kyle Kim, Jack Bender and Walker Calvo, who between them allowed just two walks and struck out four batters. Bender was particularly effective, tossing 4-1/3 innings with one strikeout and needing only 34 pitches to sit down all 13 batters he faced.
“He was throwing lots of curveballs. We were chasing them and unfortunately putting them in play on the first pitch,” Schow said.
In fact, the final 18 La Grande batters, following a walk to Carter Peasley to open the second inning, were retired.
“Hitting has to be one of our stronger things (on Friday),” the coach added.
Golden Hill took a 1-0 first-inning lead on a Sean Gonnella RBI single and pushed the margin to 3-0 with Eric Jeon’s two-run home run in the third. Golden Hill added single runs in the fifth, sixth and seventh innings — on a Bender RBI single, an error and a Calvo RBI double, respectively — for the final margin. In all, Golden Hill had 11 hits.
Jace Schow kept La Grande close early on the mound. He finished by pitching 5-1/3 innings, allowing five runs — four earned — on eight hits with four walks and four strikeouts.
Doug Schow said his message to the team was to try to get to Saturday — and, he told them, “If you get there, you never know (what could happen).”